Liadh Ní Riada MEP calls for government to introduce LEADER derogations
Speaking from Brussels following a meeting with the European Commission this week, Sinn Féin MEP for Ireland South, Liadh Ní Riada, has called on Minister Alan Kelly to introduce a derogation in the delineation of LEADER sub-regions to allow islands and rural communities that cross county boundaries to maintain their identity, capitalise on local expertise and meet the specific needs of their communities.
Ní Riada said;
“Not only has the government put LEADER rural development funds under local authority control, removed the bottom-up approach principle but undermined the years of experience and expertise built up in our local development companies and restricted access to LEADER due to the government's new county based sub regional areas.
"Under the Rural Development Programme 2014-2020, island communities will be incorporated into local sub-regions on the mainland which means that they will lose access to LEADER.
“It makes sense for islands to be designated as one separate sub-region to ensure efficient and effective use of this valuable and much-needed development funding. Not only this, but it is widely acknowledged that islands have very different needs in terms of economic and community development. There is a greater need for innovation, tailored approaches, and specific planning for island-based projects.
“Similarly many close-knit rural communities cross county boundaries, and this has been recognised in the last LEADER programmes. In my own constituency there is a strong body of expertise, experience and success built up within the communities of Duhallow, which straddles the Cork and Kerry border, and Ballyhoura, which takes in parts of Limerick and Cork.
“The decision to delineate LEADER sub-regions along local authority boundaries is not in the best interests of communities on the grounds, and is part of a broader attempt to put community development funds under the control of local authority managers rather than in the hands of communities where it belongs.
“The European Commission informed me that there can be a derogation as it is the decision of the individual member state so I call on the government to introduce a derogation to facilitate island communities and communities that span county boundaries.
"Rather than purely by local authority area, LEADER funding should be allocated according to the realities on the ground and the needs of the communities. The Government needs to rethink its approach on this."